Just today, I chanced upon a second-hand copy of Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland and was so tempted to get it. This title is unfortunately not in the Public Libraries due to its size; the books were printed according to the size of the original newspaper. Of course, Fantagraphics had also published this in a shelf-friendlier size but unfortunately the entire series is out of print. So why am I bringing this up today? Because I came across Little Nemo on the Internet Archive and I am extremely excited to share this gem with the rest of you. Though I still say nothing beats flipping a comic book with your hands and holding the book up close and looking at the details of the illustrations (not that you can’t do it with a digital comic, but if you grew up reading physical comic books, you know what I mean, ).
The first time I saw this comic book was about 10 years ago in a bookstore and back then I couldn’t afford to spend a lot on comic books. (Does this start you wondering how old I am? Well, I’m not telling you.) Of course, my lack of moolah didn’t stop me from browsing the book – or actually reading it – and boy, was I in for a surprise. I enjoyed it so much I couldn’t put it down, which is an absolute agony since I was unable to own it. A big part of me wished I had read this when I was a child (though I am not saying that you wouldn’t be able to enjoy it as an adult).
The story feels very much like Alice in Wonderland due to the characters and settings. But I have to say, this is a lot funnier. McCay is absolutely brilliant in his use of colours and frames. I was drawn to his comics within seconds. The story is surreal yet funny, and the illustrations are colourful and intricate. There is this particular scene of Nemo and the princess riding the elephant that has stayed with me to this very day; I have yet to find another illustrator who can outdo it. (Of course, there might probably be some comic master artist out there I have yet to encounter). It’s definitely not too much of a stretch to say McCay’s style is superb and unique.
It was difficult for me then and even now to think that Little Nemo started out in 1905 as a comic strip in the New York Herald. McCay’s style was probably extremely progressive. Looking at his work today, you would not think you are reading something more than a hundred years old. His illustrations, colours, frames, and sense of humour are all brilliant. It is amazing how McCay is able to always inject humour in each of his strips, and when I say “strip” it means he didn’t have many frames to work with. And I feel this is exactly what keeps the reader anticipating: what is going to happen when Little Nemo goes to sleep again? Honestly, I can’t imagine how anxious I would be if I had lived in that era, having to wait for the next week to come before I could read the next strip.
Well, I hope I have managed to get you at least slightly interested in this comic master. If you are interested in his other works, you can check out this page from the Internet Archive.
And I’ll leave you to guess if I ever got around to buying that second-hand copy of Little Nemo in Slumberland.